Millennials are killing the napkin industry, the diamond industry, and the monogamy, uh, industry? While some believe polyamory is the end of monogamy, it isn’t. But, it is gaining in acceptance and visibility in the United States. And, perhaps, in popularity.
One of the most popular guides to non-monogamy, The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, was republished in 2017 and has sold 200,000 copies. Pretty good numbers for a book that won’t make Oprah’s book club.
So, what is polyamory?
What Is Polyamory?
Polyamory is the practice of having sexual or romantic relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of everyone involved.
The term comes from the Greek “poly,” meaning multiple, and the Latin “amor,” meaning love. It may be shortened to “polyam” or “poly.”
Polyamory is ethical and consensual non-monogamy, meaning that the relationships are not monogamous, but all partners consent to the situation. If you have multiple partners in a monogamous relationship but the partners don’t know about it, we have another technical term for that: cheating, from the Greek term for “being a jerk.”
“To me, polyamory means communication, trust, and a certain sense of freedom,” says Travis Rosemarie, a polyamorous theater artist. “Needs are met through multiple partners instead of piling it all on one person.” The theory essentially goes that you don’t expect your hairstylist to fix your car and give you an X-ray, so why expect your partner to meet your every romantic and sexual need?
It’s hard to get good numbers on how many people practice polyamory. But according to a 2014 blog from Psychology Today, at least 9.8 million people in the United States were in some kind of non-monogamous relationship at that time.
Types of Polyamorous Relationships
If you’re considering a poly relationship, you might be surprised to discover that there are nearly as many types of polyamorous relationships as there are people in polyamorous relationships.
Each type of polycule or connected network of people in polyamorous relationships has its own structures, connections, and boundaries.
Linden Curhart, Rosemarie’s fiancé and nesting (live-in) partner, explains that not everyone uses the same polyamory playbook.
“Some people may want to use specific terms and systems to define and manage their relationships to others,” he says, but “it’s not necessary for healthy attachments. It’s okay to just follow whatever feelings develop naturally.”
A vee relationship involves one person who is dating two people who are not romantically or sexually involved with each other.
For example: Daphne is dating Friedrich and Simon, but Friedrich and Simon are not dating each other. So if you drew a line from Friedrich to Daphne to Simon, it’d form a V shape.
A triad, or throuple, is a relationship between three partners who are all romantically or sexually involved with each other.
If you drew a line between Daphne, Friedrich, and Simon, it’d be a triangle, since now they’re all connected. Where was this lesson in trigonometry? SOHCAHTOA can’t help you now.
A quad is a relationship between four partners who are romantically or sexually connected with each other. This could be two primary couples connecting or adding another partner to a triad.
4. Hierarchical Polyamory
A hierarchical polyamorous relationship places more importance on one relationship over other relationships in the polycule. A primary partner is often the person that they are married to, share finances with, or lives with. Primary partners will prioritize each other when making decisions and commitments.
5. Non-hierarchical Polyamory
A hierarchical relationship does not prioritize any of the members of the relationship over the others. Each person’s relationship with each other will still be unique, but none are prioritized over the others. Everyone in the relationship works together to make big decisions.
6. Solo Polyamory
In solo polyamory, or sopo, you’re your own primary partner. A solo polyamorist prioritizes their own needs and isn’t obligated to their partners when making decisions.
They may want to be a free agent for life, or they may be prioritizing themselves during a time when it’s difficult to prioritize relationships, such as raising children or focusing on their career.
7. Kitchen Table Polyamory
Kitchen table polyamory focuses on the family vibes in the polycule. All members get together for family gatherings and provide communal support.
Everyone may not be sexually or romantically involved with each other, but they are all comfortable to hang out and support each other.
8. Parallel Polyamory
In contrast to kitchen table polyamory, parallel polyamory is when the members aren’t interested in being emotionally involved with other polycule members outside of their own partner(s).
9. Mono-poly Relationships
Mono-poly relationship are relationships in which one partner identifies as polyamorous and the other identifies as monogamous. The polyamorous partner is interested in other relationships outside of the primary partnership, but the monogamous person isn’t. The monogamous partner may just not be interested in other partners, have a mismatch in libido, or not have the time or energy for other partners.